Recipe Project #68-69: Indian cauliflower hootenany

We ate a lot of cauliflower in the late spring, partly because both of these are so good and also because of the baby-steps Indian Initiative that’s apparently going on in the kitchen. Both are incredibly easy, although you do need the right spices (which are easily available from any Indian market or online.)

The first is a tomato-based concoction that’s perfect as a main dish for a vegetarian meal. Mr. Husband, being a morning news watcher, saw it on a Today segement and asked me to make it. They’ve conveniently posted the recipe for Spicy Cauliflower Steak on the network website. Here’s a slightly edited version:

1 head cauliflower, outside stalks cut off
1/2 cup cooking oil
1 1/2 cups puréed or crushed canned tomatoes
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
10 cloves (optional)
3-inch cinnamon stick (optional)

Cut the cauliflower into “steaks” by slicing across the head. Wash and carefully place large cauliflower pieces in a colander to drain.
Combine oil and tomatoes in a large wide pot on medium-high heat. (Since the pot is large, you may need to turn it on to high if your stove burner is small.)
Add ginger, salt, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, cloves and cinnamon, stir well and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, or until oil glistens from tomatoes.
Reduce the heat to low while you mix in cauliflower. Carefully place each large piece of cauliflower into the pot and gently stir so that the tomato masala covers all the pieces. If necessary, use a large spoon to ladle tomato masala into the nooks and crannies of the cauliflower pieces.
Increase the heat to medium, cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through. When you stir, if you notice that the cauliflower isn’t cooking, increase the heat. If it’s sticking to the bottom of the pot, decrease the heat. Pierce one of the larger pieces with a knife to see if it is soft (not mushy). If necessary, cook cauliflower, covered, for another 1 to 2 minutes. (If florets have broken apart because they overcooked, don’t worry; this dish is still delicious.)

The second dish is my favorite: a wonderfully crisped version of aloo ghobi, found on Manjula’s Kitchen (which is a great resource for vegetarian Indian dishes.) I’ve made this several times, both as a main and a side dish, and am certain it will continue to be a staple for us.

2 medium potatoes (cubed into bite sized pieces)
1/2 inch shredded ginger
3 teaspoons coriander powder (dhania)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (haldi)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper ( lal mirch)
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons oil
Pinch of Asafetida (Hing)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
2 green chilies, sliced in long pieces
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon mango powder (amchoor)
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro (green coriander)
1/4 cup water as needed

In a small bowl, mix the shredded ginger, coriander powder, cayenne pepper, turmeric, and 3 tablespoons of water to make a paste.
Heat the oil in a pan. Test the heat by adding one cumin seed to the oil; if the seed cracks right away, it means the oil is ready.
Add hing and cumin seeds to the oil after the seeds crack. Then add the bay leaves and green chilies and stir for a few seconds.
Next, add the spice paste and stir for a minute until spices start leaving the oil. [To non-Indian cooks, this may sound like a slightly obtuse instruction, but you’ll know it when you see it. Promise.]
Add cauliflower, potatoes, 2 tablespoons of water and salt. Mix well. Cover the pan and let it cook on medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Make sure to stir gently every 3 to 4 minutes. [I stir less in order to get a slight crust.]
Lastly, add the mango powder and fresh cilantro (green coriander). Mix everything and cover for a minute. Adjust the salt to your taste.

[You can make this dish without asafoetida, which is sometimes translated as “devil’s dung.” But it does add a certain something, and definitely makes the dish taste more authentic. I’d miss it if it wasn’t there and think it’s worth hunting down.]

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